Vail Daily letter: Best o’ luck, Tony O’Rourke | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: Best o’ luck, Tony O’Rourke

James Deighan
Vail, CO, Colorado

When we met back in 1998, I had just started at Highline and we were running the local mountain bike series, The Mountain Challenge. I had just begun my career in sponsorship sales, and I went to Tony, the Executive Director at Beaver Creek Resort Company, asking for support of the series and he gladly engaged with a nominal amount, but enough to make a difference for our modest local series. Tony wanted Beaver Creek to be involved with the community on every level. His attitude was to make Beaver Creek a destination for tourists and locals alike, and create a persona for Beaver Creek which was to be welcoming to all.

In keeping with this notion, Tony then asked us to replicate the camaraderie and loyalty in that local series somehow with a winter event series. Snowshoeing was beginning to take off, so together, we created the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Fun Fest. The whole idea was to break down the philosophical and physical gates of Beaver Creek and create an event series, which showcased Beaver Creek to visitors and locals.

Obviously, the series has been an ongoing success and still going strong after 12 seasons. Tony’s Beaver Creek event model has grown exponentially over the years and has seen immense success.

This series was a pivotal time for Highline, as we had only been in business a few years. Tony not only gave us a chance to create something new and prove ourselves, but he also helped us build our business from the ground up. He taught us a vast amount about trust, customer service, providing a high-end event platform, creating value, and most importantly, taking care of people the right way. The idea was to show this passion even if the clientele may not have been that of the usual Beaver Creek guest.

Through the years we have produced events in conjunction with Tony such as the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series, The Ultra 100, Ford Adventure Sport Challenge, Women’s Health Weekend, along with concerts, festivals, and tons more. Working with Tony has been an invaluable experience like none other and we will be indebted to him for his generosity and kindness forever.

The strongest trait Tony has been able to share with not only us, but also the community as a whole, is the way he treats people and how he leads by example. “Uncle Tony,” as he has come to be known, takes care of everyone he is around at all times. He understands the value of treating people well, with unrelenting respect, and is generous to a fault.

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About 10 years ago, I asked him if he would hire my then girlfriend and now wife, Kyle, as an intern to work in the event department at Beaver Creek. We as a family are incredibly fortunate that she has been there ever since, working side by side, not for, but with Tony. Her loyalty to Tony is unmatched, and the simple reason being that Tony treats her, and everyone around him as a respected peer.

Most importantly, I think it is safe to say that Tony became a friend more than a client from day one. Tony has taught me some amazing ways to enjoy life and has taught me to laugh at myself as much as I do at him. He has pushed me on hikes and snowshoeing treks with his old pal Buddy on the trails of Beaver Creek, we have grinded out long bike rides, and I have endured grueling rounds of golf with him only to watch him smile after his 110th shot of the day. I have had the honor of enjoying world travels together with him and our wives, and he has introduced me to an international brotherhood of friends from Lech Austria, to Napa Valley.

We have experienced mayoral visits in Italy, drank Donna Claudia wines in 13th century villas, strolled the streets of Sienna in search of the finest Gelato know to man, hiked the hills of Tuscany, swam the waters of Mexico, and scaled the Alps of Austria. We have eaten some of the finest culinary delights the world’s most renowned chefs are able to create, and have never missed desert at a single meal.

We have laughed and cried together. We share a mutual love of sports, have battled on the political field 101 times, enjoyed backyard barbecues, and I’ve had the distinct privilege of listening to lengthy discussions on worldly matters direct from Tony’s deeply educated mind. I have watched his love for his wife and children be the driving force of his every day and have learned a lifetime of irreplaceable knowledge from Tony.

Uncle Tony, you will be dearly missed by everyone here at Highline, by my wife and kids, as well as the thousands of other families you touched every day in 14 years at Beaver Creek. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors, and know that you will shine your light anywhere you go.

Beaver Creek will have to find a way to live without the man who built its heart and soul, and live up to his legacy, which has been so carefully assembled. As for the folks in South Lake Tahoe, they don’t have the slightest idea of how lucky they are about to become. All the best, Tony.

James Deighan